Good-bye ‘Norma Rae,’ Sorry About the Health Care

crystal_lee_suttonCrystal Lee Sutton, the textile worker and union organizer from Burlington, North Carolina, who was the inspiration for the 1979 Academy Award-winning film Norma Rae, died last month from cancer.

Norma Rae was a ground-breaking film for the American labor movement and also launched Sally Field, who played the lead, in her film career.

“Crystal Lee Sutton was a remarkable woman whose brave struggles have left a lasting impact on this country and without doubt, on me personally,” Field said in a statement responding to the news of Sutton’s death. “Portraying Crystal Lee in Norma Rae, however loosely based, not only elevated me as an actress, but as a human being.”

NormaRae fieldLinda Meric,  executive director of 9 to 5, the national association of working women, has a sobering post over at Facing South on Sutton’s death as it connects to delayed coverage from her health insurance company. Meric writes:

Crystal Lee Sutton, the woman whose life inspired the 1979 film Norma Rae, about a brave union organizer, died of cancer on Sept. 11, 2009,  after struggling in 2008 with her health insurance company.

Her insurer delayed her treatment by two months, initially by denying coverage of her medications, according to an article published last year in North Carolina’s Burlington Times News.

Her untimely passing at age 68 speaks powerfully to the continuing debate over health care reform.

Read Linda Meric’s full post here.

Substantive health-care reform includes 1) a publicly funded option for obtaining health insurance, 2) provides accessible and affordable insurance for everyone who is uninsured or under-insured, including legal and undocumented immigrants, and 3) contains clear “conscience clauses” around the issues that are morally sensitive.

Without it, we will continue to lose our heroes–known and unknown.

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